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Pictures by Land and Sea Around Matia Island in the San Juan's

      A few years back, I  hiked the trail from Pelican Beach to the top of Eagle Bluff on Cypress Island, taking pictures every few minutes along the way.  The resulting pictorial is a pretty good synopsis for those that can't make the journey themselves. See the Eagle Bluff Pictorial hike here.  I decided to do the same thing on Matia, but with a little change up. First I hiked the trail snapping away with wild abandon, then I jumped in the dinghy and hugged the shore continuing taking pictures while I circled the island. Then I deleted most of what I had. The results are  below, you decide if it was worthwhile.
Matia Island picture
The blue marker on the far left marks Rolfe cove, and where we  begin our visit to Matia

First off, exit the dock!
The little four boat float, may be full, but there are two buoys and room for a few boats to anchor.  In a pinch you can anchor in the much larger cove at the other end of the island and do this hike/dinghy tour in reverse.

Hiking boating Matia Island
Boater park fees are  a great deal for what we get in return.

Matia Island in the San Juans
The trail starts at the top of ramp beyond the small picnic campground area.  Matia is unique in that fires are not allowed anywhere, and pets are restricted from trail system.
click where it says read more for the rest of the picture tour!


Matia Island #3
The pocketed cliffs next to the restrooms are studded with shells and sea life fossils.

Matia Island #4
Immediately the old and soon to be old growth woods swallows you, the boat is only minutes away, but is quickly forgotten.

Matia Island #5
Bracket Fungus grows on dead trees

Matia Island #6

Matia Island #7
The trail is remarkably wide, smooth, and mostly root free, making the walk a real pleasure. The tranquility will have you whispering to avoid disturbing the peace.

Matia Island #8
Unlike other islands, Matia has very little storm damage, It may be just a matter of time. 

Matia Island #9

Matia Island #10
Our first peak of the large east cove is only 15-20 minutes into the hike.

Matia Island #11
The un-welcome committee immediately snubbed us and paddled away.

Matia Island #12
We returned the insult, and left them alone.

Matia Island #13
One of the few side trails leads out to a viewpoint at the very end of the cove, a very worthwhile side trip, but today we turned right and kept on the loop trail.

Matia Island #14
A short side trail leads to a small cove facing Orcas Island
Matia Island #15
Later we bring the dinghy in  here, but a big boat would be a mistake.

Matia Island #16
It's an easy scramble down to the driftwood pile

Matia Island #16
Back on the trail, I expect to see deer but have never seen any, or droppings, in dozens of visits to Matia.
Update: On a more recent hike along this section of the trail we came across a large owl (15" tall or more) sitting on a low limb. It was being mercilessly dive bombed by a handful of robins. Eventually the owl flew away. It's hard being pro robin after watching them chase off such a magnificent bird.

Matia Island #17

Matia Island #18

Matia Island #19

Matia Island #20
This next cove along the trail is also too small for anything but a dinghy, we think this is the landing spot favored by the hermit reputed to have lived on the island for many years. He would have rowed his skiff to Eastsound  on Orcas, in the background, across this same stretch is where he must have disappeared  on his last visit to town. 

Matia Island #21

Matia Island #22
Matia, like all of the San Juans was logged in the early days, possibly to supply the kilns at Roche, but also to supply the growing area around Seattle.

Matia Island #23
This freshwater swampy area beside the trail is just a short distance from the little cove making it a likely place for the hermit's cabin.

Matia Island #24
We found several old apple trees beside the overgrown pond lending further support that this was near the location of the pioneer hermits home site.
Matia Island #25
From Hermit Cove (my name) it is just five minutes  over a small saddle and suddenly you get a surprise view of Rolfe cove and you are back.

Matia Island #26
The sign says the trail is one mile, but seems less.

Matia Island #27
The ramp out to the boats is built with the single piling method, and yes, it is wiggly giving you no confidence it will stay up, and yet, there it is.

Matia Island #28
The beach at Rolfe Cove terminates into a sheer wall at both ends making beach combing limited.
Matia Island #29
Other than a small current out at the dock the beach is dinghy friendly, we often see camp boats anchored and kayaks pulled up onto the driftwood.  The campsites are directly above the beach.
Matia Island #30
Lets head out the rickety ramp and jump in the dinghy for a circumnavigation and sea view of Matia.

Matia Island #31
It's pretty close to high tide as we head out for a counterclockwise circle of the island.

Matia Island #32
Right around the first point is a cute but smallish bay a couple boats can anchor in for some privacy, they even have their own beach.  (This would be my second choice for "Hermit Cove" or when the little cove was too rough)

Matia Island #33
Moving along, I notice the strata is turned on edge, I wonder which way is the original up. Is the oldest land to the left or the right?
Matia Island #34
seeing the strata on edge helps me  to understand the overhangs and eroded areas.
Matia Island #35
This is what the Hermit saw as he rowed, I can imagine his cabin up in the trees, and his skiff pulled up on  the beach. the fresh water pond is on the left side, The hiking trail is back in the trees about fifty feet.
Matia Island #36
Moving on to the right, there is no place to land a dinghy, but an excellent snag for Eagles that roost on Matia
Matia Island #37
Moving in close allows us to see some interesting formations

Matia Island #38

Matia Island #39
Matia Island #40
Depth perception in this picture is misleading, but this is the other little cove seen earlier from land, see the sign on the hill?
Matia Island #41
This is the east point of the large east bay on Matia, and like most points, it continues underwater for quite a ways,
demanding a respectful approach whether in a dinghy or cruising boat.
Matia Island #42
Here we are looking straight in the east bay, notice the marine mammals sprawled on awash rocks.  The rocks are charted by the way. We stood at the head of the bay two hours earlier on our hike. A sailboat has moved in since we were on foot.

Matia Island #43
Helpful locals mark the rocks for us as we enter the bay

Matia Island #44
Once clear of the entrance rocks we can run extremely close to the perpendicular bank.

Matia Island #45
And come across more residents

Matia Island #46
You can just make out the trail we walked earlier, its the light area past the fir tree. The geese are nowhere to be seen.
Matia Island #47
I keep reminding myself everything is turned about ninety degrees from how it was created.

Matia Island #48
Continuing around inside  the east bay, I am surprised how tolerant the birds are considering the snubbing we got from the geese earlier.

Matia Island #49
As we are leaving the bay to continue our circumnavigation, I spot this outcrop and then circle back for a picture.
do you see a  open jawed eel or a beaver with a tree on its back and a clawed foot?  That's Lummi Island in the background.

Matia Island #50

Matia Island #51
Outside the east cove we turn the corner on the North side to face the wrath of Georgia Strait, but Georgia is asleep, the lay of the land warns me to watch out for underwater shelves.

Matia Island #52
The hull crunching shelves are just what seal pups need for Orca protection

Matia Island #53
Soon we come to hundreds of moms and pups. We kept a healthy distance, but could tell that our presence made them nervous.
Matia Island #54
Moving up the north side of Matia, there isn't a flat rock without an animal sprawled on  it.  Notice the low bank, you can walk right from the forest onto these shelves but there aren't any trails accessing this part of Matia. 

Matia Island #55
As the tide rises and lowers these shelves become hidden or exposed, its best to stay offshore a ways.  There is nothing but bad news for boats and props in close.

Matia Island #56
Before you know it we have made it all the way around Matia and are back at Rolfe Cove looking in the north entrance, but we decide to stay outside and explore the little passages lacing the barrier island that creates and protects the cove.

Matia Island #57
From a distance I think there is no chance we can fit through this gap.

Matia Island #59
I'm thankful the current isn't an issue, it looks like we will fit afterall.

Matia Island #58
Then I see what lies beneath. No problem, but the oars got scuffed a little.

Matia Island #60
When we get back to the float this lost baby welcomes us.
We called the lost pup number, it was hard to not carry it around the corner to all the other moms and pups.

That concludes our around Matia on foot and afloat tour.

If you enjoyed this picture trip around Matia Island, you might also enjoy, the Eagle Bluff pictorial